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Judicial Proceedings Immunity Impacts on Unfair Dismissal Claim

SchoolA former head teacher who claims that she was the victim of a concerted campaign of racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation in order to oust her from her post has had part of her case struck out by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) on grounds that it is precluded by judicial proceedings immunity.

In the context of employment tribunal proceedings, the teacher had been served with a witness statement sworn by a colleague which she claimed contained a number of untruths. She argued that receipt of the statement was the ‘final straw’ that led her to leave her post and that it had been prepared following ‘improper pressure’ by the school’s governors and her local authority employers.

The teacher, who alleges that a campaign to remove her from the school was pursued by parents, staff and governors with the encouragement of senior employees of the local authority, argued that the circumstances of her departure amounted to constructive unfair dismissal.

However, striking out that part of her claim which depended upon consideration of the colleague’s witness statement, the EAT ruled that it was a document that had been prepared for use in the proceedings and was thus covered by absolute judicial proceedings immunity. The tribunal thus had no jurisdiction to take into account the contents of the witness statement or the circumstances in which it was made when considering her constructive unfair dismissal claim. The hearing of the balance of the teacher’s case by the tribunal had been adjourned pending the EAT’s determination of the immunity issue.